Difference Between Hypertension and High Blood Pressure

The key difference between hypertension and high blood pressure is that the hypertension is a medical diagnosis where blood pressure is persistently elevated at or above 140/90 mm Hg for most adults. To diagnose hypertension, the person should have at least two separate blood pressure measurements above 140/90 mmHg threshold at rest, preferably, in the sitting position. Whereas, high blood pressure refers to a nonspecific elevation of the blood pressure above 130/80 mmHg.

What is Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure refers to the pressure within the arterial system of the body. It has two components; the systolic pressure and the diastolic pressure. It is written as systolic pressure / diastolic pressure in millimeters mercury (e.g. 130/80 mmHg). Systolic pressure represents the pressure within the arterial system during the contraction of the left ventricle of the heart pump, and the diastolic pressure represents the pressure during relaxation of the left ventricle. Normal blood pressure of an average adult is considered as 130/80 mmHg. Systolic pressure is dependent upon the cardiac output or the amount of blood ejected from the left ventricle during each contraction and the diastolic pressure is dependent on the resistant of the arteries which correlate inversely with the diameter of arteries. Blood pressure can be different among individuals based on many factors such as age, gender, height, body mass, etc.  Blood pressure monitors are used to check the blood pressure.

What is High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure is referred to nonspecific elevation of the blood pressure above 130/80 mmHg and it could be due to completely normal transient elevation of the blood pressure due to physiological reasons such as exercise, mental stress, etc. and pre-hypertension which is the elevated blood pressure which does not fall within the criteria of hypertension also included in this category.

What is Hypertension?

Hypertension is a chronic disease condition where the blood pressure is persistently elevated above 140/90 mmHg. In majority of the cases, it is resulted from narrowing of the arteries due to multiple causes such as atherosclerosis (deposition of lipids on the wall of arteries), calcification (deposition of calcium on the wall of the arteries). Usually, this leads to persistent narrowing and hence persistently elevated blood pressure above the threshold value causing hypertension.  This is considered as primary or essential hypertension. However, there are secondary causes of hypertension resulting from hormonal imbalances and renal diseases. Typically, patients with secondary causes of hypertension have very high blood pressures, poor response to the usual treatment, sudden loss of blood pressure control, can occur among young patients and associated symptoms of the primary disease causing hypertension may manifest.

   Category Systolic Pressure (mm Hg) Diastolic Pressure (mm Hg)
   Normal < 120 and < 80
   Prehypertension 120 – 139 or 80 – 89
   Hypertension Stage 1 140 – 159 or 90 – 99
   Hypertension Stage 2 ≥ 160 or ≥ 100
   Hypertensive Crisis > 180 or > 110

What is the difference between Hypertension and High Blood Pressure?


Hypertension: Hypertension is caused by underlying disease of the blood vessels or other organs such as kidneys or hormonal system in almost all cases.

High Blood Pressure: High blood pressure may be caused by normal physiological situations such as exercise and severe mental stress and does not necessarily mean a disease.

Risk factors

Hypertension: There are many risk factors that contribute to the development of hypertension such as dyslipidemia, high salt intake, sedentary lifestyle, and medicines such as oral contraceptive pills and steroids.

High Blood Pressure: High blood pressure may or may not be contributed by risk factors.


Hypertension: Hypertension causes target organ damage affecting the brain, heart, kidney and the eye.

High Blood Pressure: High blood pressure does not usually leads to complications.


Hypertension: Hypertension needs special investigations to confirm the diagnosis, find out the cause and target organ damage.

High Blood Pressure: High blood pressure does not necessarily need additional investigations.


Hypertension: Hypertension requires treatment in almost all cases including dietary measures, lifestyle modification, and medicinal drug treatment as a single therapy or a combination of several.

High Blood Pressure: High blood pressure does not require treatment.


Hypertension: Hypertension needs at least one treatment modality to control it.

High Blood Pressure: High blood pressure can spontaneously come down to normal levels

Follow up

Hypertension: Hypertension essentially needs long term follow up.

High Blood Pressure: High blood pressure does not necessarily need long term follow up.

Source of Hypertension Category Chart: American Heart Association [seen July 2015]